On Wednesday, writing for The Atlantic, Juliette Kayyem argued that former President Donald Trump's newfound, overt embrace of the QAnon movement is a sign that he is running out of ideas about how to expand his political base.
Trump had always paid some degree of praise to QAnon, a conspiratorial belief that America is controlled by a secret group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who consume children's flesh to live forever. But more recently he has made his allegiance to them more explicit, by playing a QAnon-associated song at his Ohio rally and sharing memes containing QAnon tropes on his social media platform, Truth Social, including "The Storm is Coming" — a reference to the movement's imagined wave of mass arrests of their political enemies.
"This has understandably provoked a lot of hand-wringing from Democrats and disillusioned former Republicans, who rightly fear that Trump will incite QAnon supporters to violence," wrote Kayyem. "But the outrage from respectable quarters matters far less to the former president than his own political plight. Trump, who had previously maintained at least a little distance from QAnon, is only signing on now because he’s flailing."
The problem for Trump, wrote Kayyem, is that between the January 6 investigation and the FBI's probe of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the former president faces a mounting wave of legal action and bad press which effectively turn millions of voters off him — and leave QAnon as one of the only sources of enthusiasm for his brand remaining.
"Violent movements either grow or fall apart," wrote Kayyem. "They stop growing when their members are arrested or run for the exits; they dissipate when their leader can no longer stay on message and repels more people than he attracts. Without Q, what is Trump’s next move to fill stadiums? The world has moved on since November 2020, but Trump has not. He offers the same vituperation of immigrants — at the same Ohio rally, he claimed to have invented the term caravans — but he has no idea what to do about the backlash his Supreme Court appointees created by overturning Roe v. Wade. All he has left is violence, or the threat of it. He needs QAnon, even if it is not a thriving or reliable army."
"I don’t know how the decay of our democracy ends. And I do not want to minimize the danger inherent in Trump’s adoption of QAnon," concluded Kayyem. "Yet his decision is encouraging in at least one way: By throwing in his lot with a bizarre cult, he is also inadvertently showing the limits of his appeal."
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